Study Skills – How to read your textbooks more effectively

Do you get a headache whenever your teachers give you reading assignments? Are you taking a long time just to try to get through one chapter? Are you having trouble remembering what you just read even though you had just spent a few hours on it?

How to read your textbooks is such an essential skill that every student needs to learn to make studying more efficient and effective. Having strong reading skills can maximize your learning and improve your productivity. Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of your textbooks while making your reading assignments more manageable.


Before Reading the Texts

Before reading your chapter from the beginning to the end, you should start with getting a good sense of what the chapter is about. The “Pre-Read” is a good way to build background knowledge of the information, which will help you understand and follow the materials better. You can try the following pre-read order:

1. Introduction – It gives you an overview of the materials and what you are expected to learn in the chapter.

2. Titles / Subtitles – It gives you a sense of how the materials flow and some more details about the content. Besides reading the titles and the subtitles, you should also read the first and last paragraphs under each section.

3. Summary – It summarizes all the main concepts you need to understand so you can pay more attention to the related materials when you do your reading.

4. Review Questions – Similar to the summary, reading the review questions will give you some ideas on which materials are important so you can focus more on those when reading the chapter in detail.


Use Highlighting Effectively

Highlighting the key points can help you remember the content and make it easier for you when you need to go back to review the materials later. Many students highlight the materials as they are reading and they end up highlighting majority of the texts because everything seems to be important, which defeats the purpose of highlighting. Therefore, instead of doing it as you read, you should highlight the key points AFTER reading the entire section. This can give you more understanding of the overall ideas and the actual key points you want to focus on.

You should also highlight the materials effectively by using different colors or styles for different purposes. For example:

Yellow:           For key vocabulary words and their definitions

Green:           For key concepts or ideas

Pink:              For equations or formulas

Orange:          For names of important people

Underline:       For ideas that you don’t understand or agree with

Depending on what kind of textbooks you’re reading, you might choose what needs or needs not to be highlighted. Using a structured highlighting method can help you organize and absorb the materials better. If you need to go back and review the materials later, it will be a lot easier to find what you’re looking for since it’s all color-coded.


Select Your Review

When you are finished with reading the chapter, go back and revisit the areas that you need more understanding on. A good way to know which areas you should review is to go through the questions at the end of the chapter. The review questions can be used to check your understanding of the materials. When re-reading these areas, it is wise to take notes at the same time. You should paraphrase the key points in your own words instead of copying the texts directly.

Ready to Read Your Textbooks?

We hope that by now you have some ideas on how to read your textbooks effectively. These tips are helpful not only for improving your reading skills but also enhancing your level of understanding and maximizing retention of materials. The benefits of have strong reading skills are tremendous as you are expected to do much more reading in college than in high school. Having effective readings skills can definitely make studying more beneficial and enjoyable!


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